What We’re Doing With Our Weekend

This is (less than half) of our basement, with about ten years of Stuff We Don’t Use Anymore in it (the other half is similarly full). We’re clearing it out this weekend. We’re dividing it up into Things We’ll Keep (not a lot), Things We’ll Donate (somewhat more), and Things We’ll Throw Away. For the last of these categories, we rented this:

And if you don’t think we’ll end up using it all, I’ll note that after one day it’s already halfway full, and we’re not near halfway done. A decade of stuff is a lot to get through, my friends.

What I’m saying is, don’t be surprised if you don’t see me back here until Monday.

62 thoughts on “What We’re Doing With Our Weekend

  1. It has taken me nearly 20 years to convince my beloved spouse of the following rule, but I stand by it:

    If You Haven’t Used It In The Last Eighteen Months, Burn It.

  2. Heh, I totally believe you’ll end up filling that dumpster and then some. It’s never until you set about purging your belongings that you realize just how much damn space they really take up.

  3. It’s the annual hard rubbish collection in my suburb at the moment; the time of year when people put things that are too big to go in the rubbish bin out onto the nature strip. Our street’s nature strip looks like your basement, only with more CRT TVs and Dire Sofas. And dead appliances, when I get my act into gear.

  4. Um. Pretty much my entire living space looks like your “before” basement. Must do something about that. (Step one: 16 longboxes of 1980’s-1990’s comic books.)

  5. Every couple of months we purge excess crap in our house. Stuff from the house goes to the garage, stuff still in the garage from the last purge goes onto the street, where magical stuff reclaimers whisk it away in the night. I can honestly say that other than books (which are purge verboten, but probably shouldn’t be) that my worldly belongings could fit very easily into the back of a standard pickup truck.

    Basically, when the zombie apocalypse comes, I am ready to head out ,once I kill my neighbor and steel his pickup.

  6. Yeah, with the others in wishing you all well. Isn’t it amazing how much stuff we can accumulate… like iron filings to a magnet. =/

  7. The Long Suffering One would understand your pain entirely. He’s been doing much the same for the accumulation of stuff in our attic. Which reminds me that I really do need to do something about those boxes he wants me to go thru.

    *is skeered*

  8. Reminds me of helping my parents remodel a house they were going to be renting out.

    Turns out, if you actually take the time to hand-pack stuff into the dumpster instead of just throwing it in there, it can hold a lot more than you think…

  9. I like my B&B trip with my wife as a way to spend a weekend more. Though you’re weekend may end up pretty satisfying too, but remember to use your legs not your back.

  10. I am jealous that you have a basement.

    On the other hand, not having a basement does force us to clear stuff out more than once a decade.

  11. I’ve done that once in my life – packed 2 suitcases and fled to America leaving all else behind. After 20 years here, I’ve collected even more stuff.

    Do you find you have to read all the written material before throwing it out? That way it gets REALLY painful and slow…

    Good luck

  12. We lived in our first house for about 6 years. A dumpster was a huge help when we moved.

    We lived in our second house for 13 years. A dumpster would have been a help, but we had no place to put one. I think the trash men particularly hated coming to our house during our last month there, because we had a lot of trash on the curb every week. And it’s hard to give away 40 year old pine furniture.

    We expect to live in our current house for at least another 10 years or so, and we definitely have space for a dumpster during our next move.

  13. Wow! Fantastic. It feels so good to unload a space of unwanted junk and then enjoy it. What are you going to do with your newfound space? Theater? Fitness center? Spa? Cat-a-torium?

  14. I just moved into a new place after 24 months of having nearly everything I owned in storage. Goodwill now knows my truck and often asks after my family… It was amazing just how much stuff I had accumulated, how much of it I no longer needed and how easy it was to jettison about a 1/3 of what I had in storage. My new mantra is to travel light. It feels good. I have to say, I really enjoyed it the purging. I’m not sure what that says about me.

  15. And just think…after all the cleaning maybe you just found your new inspirational writing room. With a few tweaks of course!

  16. I should be doing some of that while my spousal unit is otherwise occupied. (We have different organizational styles – he is the tidy one, I am the pack rat – and I can’t stand to be supervised while I clean, when I get around to it.)

  17. “Things We’ll Keep (not a lot), Things We’ll Donate (somewhat more), and Things We’ll Throw Away.”

    Straight out of the Peter Walsh playbook. Love it!

    (He’s my hero.)

  18. I don’t throw much away. I use Craigs List to get rid of stuff. It’s really amazing how many people want my “junk”.

  19. We’ve been living in our current rental now for about two years. Recently we had vague plans to pick up and move to a different suburb, so I started preliminary packing of bookshelves. This resulted in a pretty thorough purge of my book collection. Our formal lounge room now looks like a library exploded in it. I really must get around to cataloguing the discards and putting them on Freecycle (and if that doesn’t get rid of ‘em, I’ll take the rest with me up to either the Salvation Army, the University Library, or the nearest book exchange one day).

    The moving plans? Well, those were shelved when Himself decided he wasn’t going to stick around in his current job longer than Absolutely Necessary. He’s applying for different jobs now, and I’ve put a veto on moving plans until he’s been in a job for at least six months, with no plans to get another one. Otherwise, we’ll wind up moving every couple of months to whichever new location Himself feels is best for his current employment (and we’ll wind up living out of boxes and not doing things because “it’ll be easier when we move” and so on, and I will go absolutely crackers as a result).

    I now need to get all the stuff I’ve already packed into boxes back out of the boxes, and back on the shelves. Of course, it’s getting into spring down here in .au, so there’s also a heap or two of work to be done in the garden as well. So it’s all getting the “morla el do” (“tomorrow will do” in Norfolk Island jargon) treatment.

  20. I’m beginning to understand the appeal of a two story house. First floor is the more “formal” space, where you can have acquaintances over who don’t know you well, and thus you can keep up the pretense that you’re actually an organized person. Second floor is where you can have your “real” friends over, as in “the ones who mind (the mess) don’t matter, the ones who matter don’t mind”. As #31 pointed out, hubby and I are such bibliophiles that much of our living room looks like a library exploded in it. And we’re both so devoted to our particular hobbies that, even though we have no children, we had to buy a four bedroom house just so we could each have room to store “our stuff”…and in this tiny little one-story, it’s still not enough space. And, as someone *else* here pointed out, the whole (gasp! perish the thought!) idea of purging the books is expressly verboten.

    Ah, what we do for (the things we) love…

    :-)

  21. For a minute I wondered which minimalist blog I was reading. Then I realized it was Whatever. Thoreau had it right when he talked about possessions owning us.

  22. I had to comment – I just had a 30-yard dumpster delivered to my house! I am so pleased that I am not the only one spending my weekend climbing through my own stuff and filling a dumpster with it! Best of luck!

  23. wow I feel so much better about my basement…… :)
    but I guess I’ll feel worse once the “after” pics go up. good luck!

    I guess you don’t have freecycle out there?

  24. Dave @4: I would love to know how you did it. Because not only have I been unable to convince my spouse that it is okay to throw stuff out, but he seems to have passed the “but but STUFF!” gene onto the Mythaglets.

  25. Gee, your Stuph is piled only about three feet deep — anything less than seven feet is piker category. And that’s in most of the house, not merely the garage or basement.

  26. This reminds me of Paul Graham’s essay “Stuff,” which begins:

    I have too much stuff. Most people in America do. In fact, the poorer people are, the more stuff they seem to have. Hardly anyone is so poor that they can’t afford a front yard full of old cars.

    I probably have too much stuff too, but since reading the essay I’ve thought much more carefully about the stuff I acquire and how, if at all, it’ll be used.

  27. I’m so glad you’re doing this now! My parents, brother, and I bought a house and moved in together in 2008.

    Mom & Dad’s house: The family had been in the house for 60 years between my parents and grandparents. (Mom & Dad moved in when Grandma passed). Two huge dumpsters full and we moved a boatload more into storage.

    Brother’s house: The family had been in the house for 40 years between my parents and brother. Two more dumpsters and again more in storage.

    My house: I had just moved a year ago, but did score 1 dumpster for 20 years.

    The amazing thing was that we did this from April to June of 2008. Yes, I know about hoarding and pack rat syndrome. This whole process was my avoidance therapy!

    LOL This weekend I am having a MONGO garage sale with hundreds of books and vinyl albums and a storage locker full of stuff.

  28. I now see the advantage to living in a house with no basement and a garage that has cars in it and no room for junk.

  29. We had some home repairs done before moving from Dayton to the high desert plateau of Eastern Washington, and the contractor brought out a debris box that filled the driveway. The construction debris didn’t fill a quarter of it and the rest was junk we dumped before moving. It was the lightest we had moved in 25 years. It will be interesting to see if you got a box that was big enough. I’m not sure you’ll make it in one dump run.

    Kathleen (#36): nope, I don’t recall freecycling in Ohio. Go figure. The perspective I’ve developed about recycling is that at least we know where the stuff is when it’s in landfills, and someday we’ll be going back to mine it for the reclaimable bits. We just got back from a trip to Canada, where they’re a little more hard core about recycling – bins all over the place for separating plastics, paper, metals and compost, with the “waste” bins placed few and far between to make you do it right. It was refreshing.

  30. Oof. The major cleaning of basements is a pain, but rewarding in the end. Hope you find something cool you’d forgotten about!

    Protip: If you find pirate’s gold, you’re good. If you find anything that reminds you of gypsies or dark, deep forests, you might wanna drop that off in the donation box.

  31. My parents are in the middle of a similar endeavor, but it’s about 30 years of their stuff, plus the “stuff to keep” piles from both of their parents. Daunting doesn’t begin to cover it.

    They did recently find a math textbook from the 1870s, which is a pretty cool geek lineage artifact!

  32. Chem-Is-Try @42: Out here in California (where we also have the recycling thing, for all the good it does), garages serve the same function as Scalzi’s basement. I think the difference is the slim home that when the Big One hits, the earth will open up and swallow all the crap.

  33. Are there plans in the works to do something special with the clean basement? Set up a pingpong table, maybe? Or something grander, like a party room for Athena’s teen years?

    We just moved, and the amount of stuff we threw away was awesome, even though we don’t have a basement (no one in California seems to — that’s why the streets in any given subdivision are full of cars; people are using their garages the way people in the Midwest use their basements). We also gave away oodles — probably thousands, literally — of books, and still had 350 boxes of the things to move (as John Clute says, “I am a book collector. There is no cure”).

  34. amateurs

    what you CLEARLY need in your basement is ROWS of shelves.
    you could easily quadruple the amount of storage and not have to actually throw anything away

    /sigh – living in a condo REALLY requires more compact storage
    /isnt there a rule about stuff expanding to fill the size of any living space

  35. “Set up a pingpong table, maybe?”
    I always thought that a pingpong table was something to stack boxes on or under.

  36. Ok,48 posts late….

    you’re a geek and don’t understand why you have maps on your wall that are projections 30 years old

  37. When Mrs. Dr. Rocketscience and I get serious about this (or when I’m cleaning out a classroom/stockroom), we’re even more Draconian than Dave up at #4. “If you haven’t used it in a year, your’e never going to.”

    Of course, thanks to that rule, we have some 4 year old moving boxes that never got unpacked, but contain items from my late mother’s china closet.

  38. Rank amateur. We’ve been in this house 23 years and I still have two boxes in the basement of stuff from the old apartment.

    Best wishes for a speedy purge! I’ve been trying to get rid of stuff too, so I admire your enthusiasm and dumpster.

  39. Best wishes John & y’all,
    My wife’s Good points include a ruthless level of clearing spaces and closets, so we don’t get overwhelmed by our posessions. I have recently adapted a Jeff Foxworthy observation about clothes “If it fits, something else on the (clothing ) team Must get cut. ” It works to keep the closet & dresser clean.
    p.s. don’t mock the Foxworthy, he’s the closest thing the south has to a philosopher.

  40. Moved four times inside of 24 months mid-decade. One dumpster load each move. Ahhhh, the minimalist lifestyle. Love it.

  41. Two weekends ago in the “attic”, which is a 600sq foot bonus room that hasn’t been used in a while due to a lack of proper insulation. Spouse and I both have a bit of a hoarding gene and the 29 bags of crap we pulled out of there proved it.

  42. There’s something deeply satisfying to getting your own dumpster to fill up with trash when you’re cleaning up. It’s also a commitment – “We just spent $100 on a dumpster, it goes away Monday, we need to fill it up!” There’s no procrastination, you’ve got a deadline!

  43. Weird dumpster experience:

    My father-in-law died in the house his family had lived in since 1925 or 26 when they moved from Brenhem to Waco. The family was not, shall we say, big on getting rid of things: some of what was in the house was unpacked boxes from the rectory in Hollywood, moved to Texas when he retired in 1983. Then there was a trunk with his mother’s trouseau from her wedding in 1915, bottom rusted through, full of big cockroaches and the scary spiders who eat them. Every day my husband, his cousin, and us, their worried spouses, would fill the dumpster and think about renting a second; every morning it would be mostly empty, things like obsolescent gas heaters and horrible old mattresses taken in the night by the rag and bone man or his modern substitute, old tupperware left behind.

    Such things do not happen where I live. It was a matter for a certain amount of culture shock, but at least we never had to rent another dumpster.

  44. My husband’s “We should get a dumpster!!” is now explained – all the cool kids are doing it. In his defense, we did have to clear the garage after a Thursday-night flood, and a dumpster would’ve made it much easier.

    The problem is most of what we could easily get rid of is books – but they’re *books*. Just because we’ve run out of walls to build shelves…

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